A Camden Democrat took aim at Gov. Phil Murphy over the State of the State speech the governor gave Tuesday.
Camden Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli in a statement released Tuesday slamming Murphy for his stance on tax incentives meted out by the state Economic Development Authority. An audit released last week found some companies did not fulfill requirements needed to receive the incentives.
“Disappointingly, I watched the Governor address the legislature wasting time and energy to re-litigate the same subject matter he brought up last week. Unfortunately, these critical comments ring hollow compared with his hypocritical actions by trying to give away billions of dollars in incentives to some of the richest people in the world,” Cappelli said, citing a $5 billion tax break the state offered Amazon in a bid to get the e-tail giant to build its new headquarters in New Jersey.
The city of Camden has benefited greatly from Grow New Jersey, one of the EDA incentive programs Murphy is angling to replace when it sunsets on July 1.
A report released Tuesday by Econsult Solutions found that Grow NJ and the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant, another EDA program Murphy is looking to replace, have brought investment to the city.
Companies likely to relocate to Camden were awarded $1.6 billion in tax incentives between 2013 and 2017. The report found those same companies have made or committed at least $1.3 billion in capital investments in the city.
Former Gov. Jim Florio, who authored a foreword to the Econsult Report and was front and center during Murphy’s speech Tuesday, took less issue with the sitting governor’s view of the issue while defending the impacts the EDA’s programs have had on Camden.
“He’s not totally wrong. The monitoring has not been all it could be. The Camden initiatives, I think, have proven their worth because the results are already in,” Florio told the New Jersey Globe, adding later: “I think the criticism that the governor was making was that there wasn’t sufficient assurance that the money that’s gone into some of these projects around the state have not been vindicated. That is, the expectations have not been vindicated.”
Cappelli is a partner at Florio’s law firm, along with Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt.
Murphy has, to the chagrin of some Trenton lawmakers, devoted much attention to the EDA audit since it was first released last week. It took top billing during his address of a joint legislature Tuesday, beating out issues like minimum wage and legalized marijuana.
“This is about wasted money, phantom jobs, squandered opportunities, and misplaced priorities. This is about a failed status quo and a broken system. It’s time to fix it, and together, we can,” Murphy said in the speech. “Together, where there is greed, we will restore opportunity. Where there is failure, we will forge success. And together, we can replace narrow thinking with common cause.”
Lawmakers — including Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat with whom Murphy has oft butted heads during his first year in office — have questioned Murphy’s focus on the EDA’s findings, challenging his characterization of the authority’s incentive’s as ineffectual.
Murphy has repeatedly cited $11 billion in incentives meted out under a handful of programs administered by the EDA, but the vast majority of that $11 billion has not been disbursed.
Still, the report might land some awardees in hot water.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Monday announced that he would investigate the report to see if any firms broke laws by not meeting requirements imposed by the EDA programs.
“If it turns out that taxpayer dollars were distributed in violation of civil or criminal law, I will use the full powers of my office to seek recovery of those funds and ensure that the proper parties are held accountable,” Grewal said, adding that he found the audit “deeply troubling.”RURCBOG Report FINAL_2019-01-15-09